Executive Function in the Adolescent Mother- Grandmother Dyad and Development of the Young Child

Damali M. Wilson, Kirby Deater-Deckard, Sara B. Johnson, Chakra Budhathoki, Deborah Gross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Children of teen parents are at increased risk for developmental delays which impact a host of social outcomes. Maternal executive function (EF) has previously been identified as an essential contributor to quality parenting directly and child development indirectly. Further, evidence of intergenerational transmission of EF combined with the potential protective effects of the teen’s own mothers, point to the importance of both mothers’ and grandmothers’ EF capacities in parenting in multigenerational families. This cross-sectional study examined the relationship of teen mothers’ (TM) and their mothers’ (GM) executive functioning and the role of these EF capacities on the development of their young children, in particular risk for delay. Methods: Thirty-four dyads of teen mothers, 15–19 years, with 1–3-year-old children, and their biological, co-residing mothers were recruited. Participants completed a computerized EF battery, the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB), and a questionnaire to screen for child developmental delay, Ages and Stages Questionnaire, 3rd edition. Results: No significant correlation was identified between TM and GM EF task performance. There were modest effect sizes for the association of higher TM and GM global executive functioning and lower risk for developmental delay (both Cohen’s d = 0.40). Conclusions: Future research on EF and other cognitive abilities in parents and caregivers of young children in multigenerational families may provide new insights into the complexity of early childhood development and risks for delays.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2842-2853
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Child and Family Studies
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Child development
  • Intergenerational transmissions
  • Maternal executive function
  • Multigenerational families
  • Teen mothers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Life-span and Life-course Studies


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